Saturday, March 16, 2013

Every 100 Games Series - The Hobbit Card Game

My 3,900th game played was the latest in a long line of LotR themed games, The Hobbit Card Game. This one is designed by Martin Wallace, known for his deep and thinky games, that tend to have more historical and industrial themes. It was published by Fantasy Flight Games in 2012. I played it at IndyCon last week as a filler between a couple other games.

Game Play
The Hobbit is at its heart a partnership trick-taking game. Players either play for the good guys or the bad guys, play through the deck, and try to win the game. For example, in a four player game, one player plays Smaug and the other three players are Bilbo, Thorin, and Gandalf. Some of the cards have star symbols and some have orc symbols, which if you win the trick, you can hand out in various ways. If you are Smaug and get a star symbol it is a wound. If you are the Free Peoples and get an orc symbol it is a wound. Too many wounds and you die, which means the opponents win. Purple is always trump, the cards are numbered, and the game plays just like any other trick-taking game you might've played.

The game is just cards, nothing else. They seem a bit smaller than your average sized playing card, but not much. The art on the cards is good, though I don't think it really matches the art on the game box. The box isn't very big and there aren't that many cards, so this game won't take up a whole lot of space on your game shelf. The orc and star symbols do their job and the numbers and the colors of the cards are easily distinguishable.

Each player has a special ability that they get to do when they win a trick. Thorin, for example, has to deal all the cards out in a trick randomly to players, thus he could end up damaging his team or helping the other team. Bilbo must give one card to himself and one card to another player. Gandalf gets to hand his cards out to everyone, so he is much more powerful. So sometimes, you don't care if Thorin wins the trick, because the cards can only help, but other times as the free peoples player you want to be sure if you do win that it is Gandalf that wins. This makes for some nice teamwork between the players, but isn't so deep to bog the game down at all.

My Thoughts
I tend to like trick taking games. The Bottle Imp, Euchre, and Tichu are probably my top three favorites and though I'm not sure this game beats those out, I still liked it. It plays so very quickly. Maybe 15 minutes for the 4 player game we played, so it can fit in just about anywhere. It also attempts to fit the theme, not as well as Bottle Imp, but still pretty well for a card game. Thorin for example is somewhat crazy and unhinged, just like he is in the Hobbit. So I give it good marks for that. It probably isn't one I'd buy specifically, but I can see myself adding it to an order to get the free shipping price.

Tolkien Fans - I'm a Hobbit fan and a LotR fan. This game is on the upper end of Tolkien themed games I've played, but it still ultimately is a trick-taking game, so if you are a collector of Tolkien then you still might want to get it for that.
Trick-Taking Card Game Players - I'd say this is one worth picking up for you hard core trick taking fans. It has a neat 1 vs. all mechanic, which you don't often see in trick-taking games. The game play is very fast, unlike some trick taking games like Tichu, which can last over an hour.
Deep Card Game Players - This is way too light for you all. Those of you who expect to find something like Race for the Galaxy, 7 Wonders, or San Juan in this can look elsewhere. It is just very light, you only play through the deck once, maybe twice if a victory isn't obtained the first play through, so don't get this hoping to have your brain burned.

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here: Every 100 Games Series Reviews.

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